HOT: Shifty Chevre, 375 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

Shifty Chevre 375 Brunswick St Fitzroy 8 HOT: Shifty Chevre, 375 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

Brunswick Street Fitzroy is saturated with eateries, but it’s only till recently that it’s gotten its own wine and cheese bar. Bienvenue Shifty Chevre!

The French-themed cheese haven opened late last year but only recently got its liquor licence. The licence means it can now serve cheese with its natural partner, wine, and they have started opening evenings. I was invited to sample their dinner menu.

Shifty Chevre 375 Brunswick St Fitzroy 3 HOT: Shifty Chevre, 375 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

Shifty Chevre has been opened by three young friends who decided to build a bar entirely based around cheese and make it the key ingredient to everything on the menu. The front counter displays a rotating selection of around 25 local and imported cheese, with the best-selling being brie. They also stock crackers, pastes, and cheese accessories (who knew a Jesus Grater existed?)

Shifty Chevre 375 Brunswick St Fitzroy 2 HOT: Shifty Chevre, 375 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

What they’ve built is a country-chic eatery in what used to be a clothing store. The natural tones, dim lighting, comfy couches and cute courtyard are an extension of your favourite friend’s home.

Shifty Chevre 375 Brunswick St Fitzroy 6 HOT: Shifty Chevre, 375 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

In summer you can order a cheese takeaway box and take it for a picnic at nearby Edinburgh Gardens. But personally I think the winter is the more perfect time to visit Shifty Chevre because everything on the menu is based cheese that’s been baked, grilled or melted (there’s no stove in the small kitchen).

Shifty Chevre 375 Brunswick St Fitzroy 4 HOT: Shifty Chevre, 375 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

They even have a raclette on the menu, an item I haven’t eaten since visiting the French Alps. If you love cheese then this a must-try dish! Melt the oozy cheese over charcuterie, potatoes and bread and you’ll be set for the night.

Shifty Chevre 375 Brunswick St Fitzroy 5 HOT: Shifty Chevre, 375 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

The tartiflette, another Savoie dish I haven’t seen in a while, comes bubbling out of its ramekin. This comforting combination of baked potato, onion and bacon dish with melted French cheese will warm you from the inside out.

Sadly I didn’t have room for dessert but I’m told the tiramisu is excellent. Other sweet options include a cheesecake and pannacotta.

Just one last mention of the stunning bathrooms. It’s one of the few times I’ve taken my camera to the loo because this changing room transformed into goat mural/fernery has to be seen to be believed!

Shifty Chevre 375 Brunswick St Fitzroy 7 HOT: Shifty Chevre, 375 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

Shifty Chevre will be the stuff of my (cheese) dreams this winter. Who am I to dis a brie?

Shifty Chevre 375 Brunswick St Fitzroy 1 HOT: Shifty Chevre, 375 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

Shifty Chevre, 375 Brunswick St, Fitzroy 0423 694 763

Wed    12pm – 11pm

Thu – Fri 12pm – late

Sat        9am – late

Sun       9am – 11pm

minilink HOT: Shifty Chevre, 375 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

HOT: The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, 8 Raffa Place, Carlton

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink 8 Raffa Place Carlton 2 HOT: The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, 8 Raffa Place, Carlton

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink is a handsome cafe hidden in a laneway – behind a laneway – next to a servo in Carlton.

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink 8 Raffa Place Carlton 3 HOT: The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, 8 Raffa Place, Carlton

While the entrance to the former horse stables is small (and positively teeny tiny when they only open the bolthole in wet weather) once you get inside it’s like the Tardis.

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink 8 Raffa Place Carlton 11 HOT: The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, 8 Raffa Place, Carlton

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink 8 Raffa Place Carlton 8 HOT: The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, 8 Raffa Place, Carlton

 A busy coffee bar greets you, then you walk back a bit further and the ceilings suddenly rise, cathedral-like.

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink 8 Raffa Place Carlton 4 HOT: The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, 8 Raffa Place, Carlton

The lofty space is so amazingly bright that it’s hard to believe that there are no windows. The skylights that form the ceiling diffuse the light so beautifully across the wood and copper decor that even on a gloomy rainy winter’s day inside the cafe it feels like a spring day.

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink 8 Raffa Place Carlton 5 HOT: The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, 8 Raffa Place, Carlton

 I take a seat at the banquette and I’m immediately enamoured of the greenery frothing over the custom-made metal wall planters. They were designed by Glasshaus in Richmond and are irrigated using a narrow pipe and drip system harnessing water from the roof.

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink 8 Raffa Place Carlton 1 HOT: The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, 8 Raffa Place, Carlton

As the name suggest The Vertue of the Coffee Drink is a shrine to coffee. The unusual name comes from a promotional handbill from 1652 s advertising the first coffee house in London and the benefits of the brew.

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink 8 Raffa Place Carlton 10 HOT: The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, 8 Raffa Place, Carlton

There’s a glossy roaster on site, a temperature controlled glass cabinet displaying various beans and coffee paraphernalia lined up along the wooden stairwell that leads up to nowhere.

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink 8 Raffa Place Carlton 12 HOT: The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, 8 Raffa Place, Carlton

But if you’re a non-coffee drinker (like me) then there’s still a tea by Chamellia ($4.50), Mork Hot Chocolate ($4-5) and the Mad as a Hatter Chai with soy ($6) which comes in a hand beaten copper vessel.  They’re also licensed.

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink 8 Raffa Place Carlton 6 HOT: The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, 8 Raffa Place, Carlton

And then there’s the food. Oh my. A series of all -day breakfast dishes that you’re unlikely to find on every second menu around town – plus I like the fact that their lunch menu starts at 10:30am!

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink 8 Raffa Place Carlton 7 HOT: The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, 8 Raffa Place, Carlton

After some dithering between the scotch egg and chickpea chips I decide on the latter ($18). It’s an artistic array of charred zucchini, preserved pops of cherry tomatoes, shaved parmesan and two poached eggs, plus some unexpectedly fluffy sticks of deep-fried mashed chickpea. Even if you’re not vegetarian this is a dish worth trying.

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink 8 Raffa Place Carlton 9 HOT: The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, 8 Raffa Place, Carlton

From the ‘something sweet’ section I try the warmed spiced fruit loaf ($14). It’s a hearty serve of almost cake-like fruit bread toasted into wedges and served with a hemisphere of poached peach, vanilla gelato and an amaretti crumble.

I feel like I want to keep The Vertue of the Coffee Drink a secret hideout just for me . But this oasis from bustling Lygon Street is so fabulous in every way – decor, service, food, drinks – that I just have to share. Enjoy!

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, 8 Raffa Place, Carlton  (03) 8060 6987

Mon-Fri 7am-4pm

Sat-SuN 7.30am-4pm

 

HOT: Bibelot, 285 – 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

Bibelot 285 Coventry St South Melbourne 2 HOT: Bibelot, 285	– 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

Bibelot is a dessert boutique, artisnal paitisserie and gelateria that’s just opened in South Melbourne thanks to the creative team behind Chez Dre.

Bibelot 285 Coventry St South Melbourne 11 HOT: Bibelot, 285	– 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

Bibelot is located next door to its sister cafe, with entry from Coventry Street. From the plain glass outside it’s hard to imagine all the amazing sweet things but once you step inside the room expands out into a Alice in Wonderland/Willy Wonka fantasy of chocolate, cake and ice cream.

I was invited to the preview night and returned on Mother’s Day of my own accord to try their high tea.

Bibelot 285 Coventry St South Melbourne 21 HOT: Bibelot, 285	– 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

It’s hard to know where to start. On the right there’s a whole wall of artfully presented chocolate bars, packages of enrobed fruit and nuts, buttery biscuits, preserves and coffee and teas.

Bibelot 285 Coventry St South Melbourne 22 HOT: Bibelot, 285	– 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

On the left is the gelati station, with a changing rotation of house made gelati and sorbets housed in pozzetti tubs – plus TWO chocolate taps.

Bibelot 285 Coventry St South Melbourne 4 HOT: Bibelot, 285	– 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

I highly recommend the pistachio gelati, which is creamy, flavoursome and studded with real nuts.

Bibelot 285 Coventry St South Melbourne 5 HOT: Bibelot, 285	– 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

Top it with some dark chocolate sauce that crackles as soon as it hits the cold and you’re onto a winner.

Bibelot 285 Coventry St South Melbourne HOT: Bibelot, 285	– 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

Head along the patisserie for delicate and beautifully presented jewels of cake, rows of pastel coloured macarons and hand made chocolates.

Bibelot 285 Coventry St South Melbourne 6 HOT: Bibelot, 285	– 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

Bibelot 285 Coventry St South Melbourne 3 HOT: Bibelot, 285	– 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

Bibelot 285 Coventry St South Melbourne 7 HOT: Bibelot, 285	– 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

Bibelot 285 Coventry St South Melbourne 1 HOT: Bibelot, 285	– 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

Bibelot 285 Coventry St South Melbourne 9 HOT: Bibelot, 285	– 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

Bibelot 285 Coventry St South Melbourne 20 HOT: Bibelot, 285	– 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

Bibelot 285 Coventry St South Melbourne 10 HOT: Bibelot, 285	– 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

At the back of the store is the ‘high tea salon’ though you’re welcome to sit for a drink and a cake there as well. The plush emerald velvet banquettes and armchairs and matching greenery give it an opulent yet inviting air. If there’s no space left in the salon then you can still enjoy your treats on the outside tables or standing by the narrow bench, European style.

Bibelot 285 Coventry St South Melbourne 12 HOT: Bibelot, 285	– 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

Bibelot’s Mother’s Day high tea offering was a test run for their future high teas, which will start Thursday to Sunday from June. For $95 (kids under 7 are free) I received a platter of gourmet savory treats with a bread basket filled to the brim, a mixture of French and Australian cheeses, Istra charcuterie and Mt Zero olive tapenade.

Bibelot 285 Coventry St South Melbourne 13 HOT: Bibelot, 285	– 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

Next up was a pretty strawberry pot au creme then a quick roll into a platter of petits gâteaux (miniature versions of what’s available in the cake cabinet) and curiously flat miniature scones.

Bibelot 285 Coventry St South Melbourne 15 HOT: Bibelot, 285	– 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

Bibelot 285 Coventry St South Melbourne 16 HOT: Bibelot, 285	– 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

Bibelot 285 Coventry St South Melbourne 17 HOT: Bibelot, 285	– 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

Bibelot 285 Coventry St South Melbourne 18 HOT: Bibelot, 285	– 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

To end, two handcrafted bonbons plus throughout there was tea, coffee and a glass of champagne.

Bibelot 285 Coventry St South Melbourne 19 HOT: Bibelot, 285	– 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

I was bowled over by the quantity and quality of the food – but at $95 I thought it was expensive compared to other high teas around town which are equally fancy. Other than the price my only other misgiving is that high tea at Bibelot is not a quiet, restful experience as the salon is at the back of the busy shop.

Bibelot brings the sensibility of a French patisserie to South Melbourne and it’s my new favourite destination for all things sweet. Judging by the roaring trade on Mother’s Day, it may already a favourite for other Melbourne sweet tooths (teeth?).

Bibelot 285 Coventry St South Melbourne 8 HOT: Bibelot, 285	– 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

Bibelot, 285 – 287 Coventry Street, South Melbourne

Open 7 days, 10am – Late

minilink HOT: Bibelot, 285	– 287 Coventry St, South Melbourne

HOT: Est. 1906, 81 Charles St, Seddon

Est. 1906 81 Charles St Seddon 5 HOT: Est. 1906, 81 Charles St, Seddon

Seddon Village is ever-changing from sleepy suburban strip to hip hangout. This week we said goodbye Seddon video store, hello industrial chic cafe Est. 1906.

The large space has been transformed into a funky daytime venue (liquor licence and night trading coming later) which also happens to be one of the most family-friendly spaces I’ve visited in a while.

Est. 1906 81 Charles St Seddon 6 HOT: Est. 1906, 81 Charles St, Seddon

The front dining room is huge, with white exposed brick, a black pressed metal ceiling and pops of yellow in the furniture and the crockery. For those who want some privacy there’s a glass-in room facing Charles Street which is separated by a sliding door. If you don’t have kids this is a great place to hide away!

Around the right where there’s another room with more tables and one side that looks out onto the courtyard. This is the least appealing of all the dining areas but it does ok with an awkward space.

Est. 1906 81 Charles St Seddon HOT: Est. 1906, 81 Charles St, Seddon

The courtyard is where Est.1906 really comes into its own. It’s spacious and sunny, with sea blue beanbags upon lush fake grass plus child-friendly elements such as a sandpit and toys.

On Monday to Friday the breakfast menu starts at 7am-11:30am, with a rather inconvenient 30 minute gap before the lunch menu starts at 12pm. On weekends the breakfast menu is available all day until 4pm.

The breakfast menu is a fairly run-of-the-mill list of cafe standards and in fact the lunch menu looks much more exciting with items such as barramundi and confit duck featuring.

Est. 1906 81 Charles St Seddon 4 HOT: Est. 1906, 81 Charles St, Seddon

As far as smashed avo goes ‘The Avo’ is pretty good, with generous lashings of avocado with cherry tomatoes, marinated feta, slices of cold smoked salmon and two perfectly poached eggs. It’s comforting and pretty without being thrilling – and probably a few dollars more than I’d expect to pay at $20.

Est. 1906 81 Charles St Seddon 3 HOT: Est. 1906, 81 Charles St, Seddon

The banana bread is a hunk of gently spiced cake with segments of poached pear, a passionfruit half and a dousing of overly sweet honey cinnamon yoghurt. The banana bread is delicious without all the accoutrements and I think solid value at $12.

On our weekend visit Est. 1906 was full by 10am so I recommend an early trip. The space is large but there are not enough wait staff when the place is at capacity so the timing can be a bit off – our food came before our coffees and as the place got busier the wait got longer. Our dirty plates were not cleared for a long time. Hopefully these small blips will be ironed out once they settle into their new digs a bit more.

Est. 1906, 81 Charles St Seddon (03) 9689 1906

Monday to Friday 7am – 4pm

Saturday & Sunday 8am – 4pm

minilink HOT: Est. 1906, 81 Charles St, Seddon

HOT: Humble Patisserie, 140 Auburn Road, Hawthorn

Humble Patisserie 4 HOT: Humble Patisserie, 140 Auburn Road, Hawthorn

Humble Patisserie is a sweet little cake shop and bakery in Hawthorn. While the store is humble in size (there are only a few tables and chairs tucked inside and on the pavement), the cake, pastry and  confectionery spread certainly is not.

Humble Patisserie 3 HOT: Humble Patisserie, 140 Auburn Road, Hawthorn

I love the super-cute fit out, with Orla Kiely wallpaper behind the counter and riotously up the ceiling and a large storybook rabbit wielding a baguette and wallpaper matching scarf.

Humble Patisserie 2 HOT: Humble Patisserie, 140 Auburn Road, Hawthorn

It’s the kind of place where it’s impossible to choose just one thing to eat. Everything is baked fresh daily on site. They are justly famous of their pastries, especially the almond croissant, and their homage to classic Australian biscuits and sweets such as the Wagon Wheel and coconut ice.

Humble Patisserie 1 HOT: Humble Patisserie, 140 Auburn Road, Hawthorn

If you have to whittle down your choices, I highly recommend the Kingston and one of their mini tarlets, a buttery biscuity crumb filled with creamy lemon curd or a rich peanut butter and chocolate ganache.

Humble Patisserie 140 Auburn Road Hawthorn HOT: Humble Patisserie, 140 Auburn Road, Hawthorn

Humble Patisserie wholesale to a few other cafes in town but I suggest you make a trip to visit this nostalgic little bakery for a sweet treat and a coffee using Axil beans.

Humble Patisserie, 140 Auburn Road, Hawthorn (03) 9818 2463

Mon to Sun 8am – 4pm

minilink HOT: Humble Patisserie, 140 Auburn Road, Hawthorn

HOT: Naughty Boy Cafe, 499 Lygon Street, Carlton North

Naughty Boy Cafe 499 Lygon Street Carlton North 10 HOT: Naughty Boy Cafe, 499 Lygon Street, Carlton North

The thumbs-up emoji signage for Naughty Boy gives an indication of the tongue-in-cheek flavour of this Carlton North cafe.

The space that used to be Residential Kitchen has been turned into a fun daytime venue by the former owners of Mama Bear in Flemington. The vibe is casual, quirky with a hint of hipster.

Naughty Boy Cafe 499 Lygon Street Carlton North 5 HOT: Naughty Boy Cafe, 499 Lygon Street, Carlton North

The lofty, light-filled industrial space is presided over by a naughty boy mural by street artist Michael Fikaris of Blender Studios.

Naughty Boy Cafe 499 Lygon Street Carlton North 4 HOT: Naughty Boy Cafe, 499 Lygon Street, Carlton North

The opposing wall has been gashed open to expose bricks and hidey holes with bits of pressed metal. I also love the light blue pressed metal adorning the coffee station and the stylish light fillings – filament lights wrapped around a wooden log and suspended underneath plastic milk crates.

Naughty Boy Cafe 499 Lygon Street Carlton North 6 HOT: Naughty Boy Cafe, 499 Lygon Street, Carlton North

The all-day breakfast menu features on-trend ingredients mixed in with cafe standards and includes  some naughty and not-so-naughty options.

Naughty Boy Cafe 499 Lygon Street Carlton North 3 HOT: Naughty Boy Cafe, 499 Lygon Street, Carlton North

I go with the grilled haloumi salad with a generous spread of juicy local figs, leaves and herbs and some small broad bean felafels ($18.50). I don’t tend to get that excited by salad but this was superb – I think the combination of salty cheese and sweet pomegranate molasses was the reason.

Naughty Boy Cafe 499 Lygon Street Carlton North 2 HOT: Naughty Boy Cafe, 499 Lygon Street, Carlton North

My friend tried the sweet corn with jalapeno fritters with smashed avocado and tomato salsa, grilled chorizo and eggs ($18.50). She liked the fact that the fritters were chunky and hearty but didn’t seem to excited by her breakfast otherwise. I did notice that the eggs had been perfectly poached, tick.

Naughty Boy Cafe 499 Lygon Street Carlton North 7 HOT: Naughty Boy Cafe, 499 Lygon Street, Carlton North

I follow up my meal with something more naughty – a stack of ricotta hotcakes ($14.90). Three generous rounds of fluffy pancakes, stacked and topped with spiced berries, a ball of lemon and saffron curd that’s almost like ice cream and an artful squirt of burnt maple syrup.

Naughty Boy Cafe 499 Lygon Street Carlton North 1 HOT: Naughty Boy Cafe, 499 Lygon Street, Carlton North

Coffee is from Allpress and the hot chocolate is from Pana Chocolate. I don’t love the latter – it’s a bit too watery and overly sweet for my liking.

Naughty Boy gives life to a very quiet part of Lygon Street and I liked the food, service and decor. If it’s your local, you’re lucky!

Naughty Boy Cafe, 499 Lygon Street, Carlton North (03) 9041 7870

Monday to Friday 7.30am – 4.00pm

Saturday & Sunday 8.00am – 4.00pm

minilink HOT: Naughty Boy Cafe, 499 Lygon Street, Carlton North

HOT: Le Jolie, 438 Gaffney St, Pascoe Vale

Le Jolie 438 Gaffney St Pascoe Vale 10 HOT: Le Jolie, 438 Gaffney St, Pascoe Vale

Get your waffle on with Le Jolie, a French cafe hidden in a small shopping strip in Pascoe Vale.

Those in the (waffle) know may have heard of Waffle Jolie, wholesalers of Belgian style waffles that sold out time and time again at Flour Market Fitzroy. Le Jolie is the permanent retail operation for the Waffle Jolie crew.

Before you say anything…yes, it’s not spelled the grammatically correct way ‘La Jolie’ but is Le Jolie because it’s an extension of Le (Waffle) Jolie.

Le Jolie 438 Gaffney St Pascoe Vale 9 HOT: Le Jolie, 438 Gaffney St, Pascoe Vale

Le Jolie serves breakfast and lunch with a French twist. Prep starts at 4:30am and all the items are made on site, with exception of the buttery flaky croissants which are bought in par-baked then baked every morning. The simple menu includes sweet and savoury tarts, tartines and daily lunch specials such as casserole and quiche.

Le Jolie 438 Gaffney St Pascoe Vale 8 HOT: Le Jolie, 438 Gaffney St, Pascoe Vale

The setting is just very charming. Inside is warm and cosy with dark timber floors, a nook of leather couches and a fireplace.

On a sunny day head out the back (past the small doorway to the hairdressing salon) and settle into the bucolic courtyard, with its lush canopy of vine leaves, a babbling fish pond with goldfish and wooden pallets turned green wall.

Le Jolie 438 Gaffney St Pascoe Vale 3 HOT: Le Jolie, 438 Gaffney St, Pascoe Vale

I tried the Croque Monsieur with a rich bechamel sauce made with roasted garlic and fresh herbs from the garden pots ($13). It’s served with a rather limp leaf salad which could be made more interesting.

Le Jolie 438 Gaffney St Pascoe Vale 6 HOT: Le Jolie, 438 Gaffney St, Pascoe Vale

Make sure you leave for waffles – in fact, order them when you order your main meal. On our visit all the waffles had sold out by midday and we were lucky to get the last one because we’d ordered it with our lunch.

The waffles are made with a secret recipe of 10 ingredients and are Belgian style, meaning they have a lovely caramelised sugar crust and are denser than American waffles. Le Jolie’s waffles are almost biscuity in flavour and texture and not so dense that you couldn’t maybe fit in two…I also recommend not drowning your waffle in too many toppings – the simple house-made chocolate sauce is enough, or even plain to really appreciate the texture and flavour.

Le Jolie 438 Gaffney St Pascoe Vale 2 HOT: Le Jolie, 438 Gaffney St, Pascoe Vale

For other sweets I also highly recommend the pistachio croissant, a croissant slathered in pistachio paste inside and out and studded with raspberries and almond flakes.

And don’t miss their French hot chocolate ($4.50) which is a frothy whisked couverture concoction rather than a thick, gooey, Italian-style hot chocolate.

Le Jolie 438 Gaffney St Pascoe Vale 11 HOT: Le Jolie, 438 Gaffney St, Pascoe Vale

Coffee is from the award-winning Melbourne microroaster Bambaleros and Le Jolie serves the No 6 blend.

Le Jolie is a lovely neighbourhood cafe which hits all the right notes in terms of food, setting and ambiance. The husband-and-wife owners work in the kitchen and on the floor and it’s obvious that they really care about their customers. The waffles alone are worth a visit!

Le Jolie, 438 Gaffney St, Pascoe Vale (03) 93799886

Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri 7.00 am – 3.30 pm

Sat-Sun 8.00 pm-3 pm  

Closed Wed        
minilink HOT: Le Jolie, 438 Gaffney St, Pascoe Vale

HOT: Brighton Schoolhouse, 15 St Andrews St, Brighton

Brighton Schoolhouse HOT: Brighton Schoolhouse, 15 St Andrews St, Brighton

Bayside locals are lucky to have Brighton Schoolhouse on their doorstep. It sits in the most stunning Downtown Abbey-esque surroundings, with manicured lawns and a round turning circle next to the church (though the New Street high street frontage is less picturesque).

Brighton Schoolhouse 15 St Andrews St Brighton 6 HOT: Brighton Schoolhouse, 15 St Andrews St, Brighton

The heritage listed stone building was built in 1842 and was an original schoolhouse. The decor retains the cathedral vaults and some monastic boarding school dining-room elements such as the long communal tables and round light fittings.

Brighton Schoolhouse 15 St Andrews St Brighton 10 HOT: Brighton Schoolhouse, 15 St Andrews St, Brighton

Old school chairs and desks still abound and there’s even some school lockers in one corner, but don’t worry you won’t feel like you’re back in Year 5 – they’ve been hipster-fied with greenery, a long banquette, high stools and some fun murals.

The all day breakfast and lunch menu focuses healthy, seasonal and sustainable dishes all named with eye-rolling schoolhouse puns.

Brighton Schoolhouse 15 St Andrews St Brighton 12 540x358 HOT: Brighton Schoolhouse, 15 St Andrews St, Brighton

I order Ja’mie: Private School Girl’s Heirloom Tomatoes ($18.50). I am astonished by the size of the dish – there are probably a dozen tomatoes atop two slices of crusty olive bread slathered with avocado puree, a few dabs of ricotta and basil pesto and a perfectly poached egg wobbling to one side. I love the addition of popped grains to add textural crunch to an otherwise simple dish.

I also try Screech’s Saved by the Bell Pancakes ($18.50). It’s a pretty dish with two fat raspberry studded buttermilk pancakes, a huge ball of white chocolate ice cream, a hairdo of pistachio fairy floss and again I love the maple and ginger crumble for the crunch.

Brighton Schoolhouse 15 St Andrews St Brighton 8 398x540 HOT: Brighton Schoolhouse, 15 St Andrews St, Brighton

 

Brighton Schoolhouse source their Schoolhouse-only seasonal espresso blend from St Ali and they use premium fresh milk from St David Dairy so I’d expect the end product to be good.

What Brighton Schoolhouse does really well is cater for children. There’s easy pram access, high chairs, change facilities, a short children’s menu with colouring-in, a chalkboard, toys and even a fenced playground.

Brighton Schoolhouse 15 St Andrews St Brighton 5 540x339 HOT: Brighton Schoolhouse, 15 St Andrews St, Brighton

Brighton Schoolhouse 15 St Andrews St Brighton 14 540x427 HOT: Brighton Schoolhouse, 15 St Andrews St, Brighton

I really enjoyed my delicious and relaxed breakfast at Brighton Schoolhouse and was a bit surprised that it wasn’t busier on a weekend morning – maybe the bad weather? The menu is quite inventive, with twists on the standard-issue cafe offerings. Most dishes nudge close to the $20 mark but the serving sizes are huge and could easily be shared.

Brighton Schoolhouse 15 St Andrews St Brighton (03) 9593 3129

Mon – Fri: 7:30am-4pm

Sat – Sun: 7:30am-4:30pm

minilink HOT: Brighton Schoolhouse, 15 St Andrews St, Brighton

HOT: Chocoholics chocolate walking tour, Melbourne

Chocoholics Chocolate Tour 4 HOT: Chocoholics chocolate walking tour, Melbourne

If you enjoyed going on Easter egg hunts as a child then going on a gourmet chocolate tour has got to be the next best thing when you’re an adult!

For the last 20 years Chocoholics have run daily chocolate walking tours through Melbourne’s CBD, winding through laneways and arcades to find the artisan chocolatiers for which Melbourne is famous. I was invited to attend one of their tours, the signature ‘Bittersweet chocolate tour’ which included tastings of milk and dark chocolate at five different chocolate stores.

Chocoholics Chocolate Tour 21 HOT: Chocoholics chocolate walking tour, Melbourne

The tour started off with a brief spiel by our personable guide about the origins of chocolate and the process of growing, harvesting and processing cacao. We were given some raw cocoa beans and cocoa nibs to try and then the real business of chocolate tasting began.

Chocoholics Chocolate Tour 19 HOT: Chocoholics chocolate walking tour, Melbourne

First stop was Cacao Lab, a chocolatier opened by Frenchman Laurent Meric  designed to look like a new age laboratory.

Chocoholics Chocolate Tour 16 HOT: Chocoholics chocolate walking tour, Melbourne

At Cacao Lab we were treated to a decorated milk chocolate with a nut ganache and a small shot of their intense hot chocolates, silently churning behind the counter.

Chocoholics Chocolate Tour 5 HOT: Chocoholics chocolate walking tour, Melbourne

Chocoholics Chocolate Tour 8 HOT: Chocoholics chocolate walking tour, Melbourne

The bright colours and beautiful packaging of Cacao Lab lured me to purchase a half-dozen carton of their Belgian chocolate eggs. I also snapped one of their hot cross buns, recently crowned one of the best hot cross buns in Melbourne.

Chocoholics Chocolate Tour 11 HOT: Chocoholics chocolate walking tour, Melbourne

Second stop was Alison Nelson’s Chocolate Bar, an American company with a few stores in New York, one in Dubai and one in Melbourne’s Emporium since October 2014. The store is very large, with lovely ironwork walls and a pastel and chocolate palette.

Chocoholics Chocolate Tour 14 HOT: Chocoholics chocolate walking tour, Melbourne

Chocoholics Chocolate Tour 12 HOT: Chocoholics chocolate walking tour, Melbourne

The company is American but all the product is made in Melbourne and I noticed that they were selling Ingrid Tufts’ ceramicware as well.

Chocoholics Chocolate Tour 17 HOT: Chocoholics chocolate walking tour, Melbourne

The recipes have been tweaked where necessary to accommodate Australian palates and some of the super-sweet American flavours haven’t made it on the menu. They use Callebaut chocolate and the aim of the founder, Alison Nelson, is to introduce American (and Australian) audiences to European style chocolate at a mid-range price.

Chocoholics Chocolate Tour 20 HOT: Chocoholics chocolate walking tour, Melbourne

We tried some of their iced chocolates with a small slice of red velvet brownie, a cake-like morsel rather than a dense, gooey slab that I usually equate the American style brownies. Then we had a tasting of a very sweet peanut butter and jelly milk chocolate and a lavender milk chocolate.

Chocoholics Chocolate Tour 9 HOT: Chocoholics chocolate walking tour, Melbourne

I also purchased a chocolate dipped Oreo (kind of like a Tim Tam actually) and my favourite, one of their selection of Asian flavoured chocolates, the bamboo macadamia jasmine dark log.

Chocoholics Chocolate Tour 25 HOT: Chocoholics chocolate walking tour, Melbourne

Our third stop was Koko Black, a European style chocolatier which is credited with inspiring Melbourne’s love affair with high quality couverture chocolate over a decade ago.

Chocoholics Chocolate Tour 2 HOT: Chocoholics chocolate walking tour, Melbourne

Chocoholics Chocolate Tour 7 HOT: Chocoholics chocolate walking tour, Melbourne

We watched the chocolatier in action by the window and then tried a strawberry milk chocolate and a silky drop of raspberry ganache inside a dark chocolate cup. Extremely rich without being cloying and so smooth on the tongue.

Chocoholics Chocolate Tour 13 HOT: Chocoholics chocolate walking tour, Melbourne

The fourth stop was Haigh’s, an Adelaide-based chocolatier which is celebrating it’s 100th birthday this year.

When I first moved to Melbourne I was a bit bemused about how everyone raved about their chocolate frogs, which I thought were ok but not the sort of amazing quality I’d experienced in Europe. While their tour tastings were very generous – a dark chocolate palette, a milk chocolate palette and cinnamon and merlot chocolate – I’m still not a Haigh’s fan.

Chocoholics Chocolate Tour 18 HOT: Chocoholics chocolate walking tour, Melbourne

Our final stop was Ganache, my favourite chocolatier in Melbourne. While I like the ambience of Koko Black’s flagship store in Royal Arcade, particularly the big cushy lounge chairs upstairs overlooking the passing crowd in the historic arcade, I think the quality of the product at Ganache is second to none. I have attended a masterclass at their South Yarra chocolate kitchen and seen how their work is done, so I am fully confident in the quality control of their product.

Chocoholics Chocolate Tour 15 HOT: Chocoholics chocolate walking tour, Melbourne

At Ganache we were offered a hot drink and a full slice of one of their signature cakes, the hazelnut fan slice. I was desperately chocolated-out at that point but could not let such a beautiful cake go to waste.

Chocoholics Chocolate Tour 22 HOT: Chocoholics chocolate walking tour, Melbourne

I had a wonderfully decadent afternoon with Chocoholics and I think that $49 is a very good price for the tour. A lot of ground is covered in the 2.5 hours, there’s a good selection of specialty chocolatiers to try and compare and you’ll certainly not leave hungry.

With several tastings at every stop there is a lot of chocolate to eat in one continuous sitting, so my tip is to skip lunch, drink a lot of water and bring a plastic bag/box to store away some of the tastings – they’ll be appreciated more later.

Note that one of the benefits of buying chocolate via the tour was that we received a discount at every chocolatier (other than Koko Black) which meant an extra excuse to indulge later!

TOT: Lady Melville Cafe and Courtyard, 227 Melville Rd, Brunswick West

Lady Melville 227 Melville Rd Brunswick West 1 540x359 TOT: Lady Melville Cafe and Courtyard, 227 Melville Rd, Brunswick West

Lady Melville is a cutie patootie family-run cafe in a rather dour strip of Brunswick West.

The venue is rather deceptive, as the sunny front room leads out into long, narrow and split-level establishment. Starting at the back there’s a rear entrance via Bakers Parade which leads into a sunny courtyard.

Lady Melville 227 Melville Rd Brunswick West 6 TOT: Lady Melville Cafe and Courtyard, 227 Melville Rd, Brunswick West

On the fake grass under the stairs they’ve set up not just one but two toy kitchens which will keep kids amused for ages.

Lady Melville 227 Melville Rd Brunswick West 4 TOT: Lady Melville Cafe and Courtyard, 227 Melville Rd, Brunswick West

Go up the steep stairs and there’s a sheltered deck, the toilets, a tiny kitchen, then a cosy room with a fireplace and succulents nesting in decorative teapots.

Lady Melville Cafe and Courtyard 227 Melville Rd Brunswick West TOT: Lady Melville Cafe and Courtyard, 227 Melville Rd, Brunswick West

My favourite space was the sunny front room where coffee machine churns out Lady Melville’s house blend from Zest. The only drawback of the front room is that the teeny tiny tables are wall-mounted, which means they’re squishy and awkward if you’re trying to fit your bottom, your bag, food, drinks and cutlery.

Lady Melville 227 Melville Rd Brunswick West 8 540x359 TOT: Lady Melville Cafe and Courtyard, 227 Melville Rd, Brunswick West

The all day breakfast and lunch menu covers all the usual bases, with lots for gluten-lovers including a delectable selection of pastries in the cabinet from Noisette.

I tried the salmon smorrebord (Danish open sandwich) with a few slices of smoked salmon, a dill cream cheese spread, radish, cucumber and capers, a bargain at $10. I wish that it came on the traditional dark rye bread instead of sourdough, but a small quibble.

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The kids menu actually contains something that I’d eat – a ham and cheese toasty stuffed with oozy cheese and good quality Istra ham ($8).

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I also tried the apple and macadamia French toast jaffle ($16.50), an extravagant affair with a spiced apple and currant mixture pressed between two slices of eggy bread. The French toast was bookended by a scoop of burnt fig gelato from Miinot Gelato and a generous dollop of marscapone. Everything was fairy-dusted with a sweet nut crumble, fresh berries and lashings of Canadian maple syrup. You can add bacon to the dish but why spoil the sweetness I say?

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Lady Melville is a fantastic café in Brunswick West that just happens to be extremely kid-friendly as well. The owners are parents and have thought of everything, without compromising on the high standard of food that discerning Melbourne café-goers expect.

Lady Melville Cafe and Courtyard, 227 Melville Rd, Brunswick West (03) 8395 4027

Tue – Fri: 7:00 am – 4:00 pm

Sat – Sun: 8:00 am – 3:00 pm

minilink TOT: Lady Melville Cafe and Courtyard, 227 Melville Rd, Brunswick West